Maybe you just can’t wait to start weaning your baby from breastfeeding. Or you don’t want to do it at all, but feel that you have to for various reasons. Then the question is of course how to wean. Especially if you have a little one who really loves nursing or really hates the bottle or solid foods. But it can be done! And it can be done without tears and trauma, especially if your are a little bit patient.
But before heading out to buy formula or the first jar of baby food, stop to ask yourself what makes you want to stop breastfeeding?
Do you now that the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends mothers to continue breastfeeding at least for two years?
In reality most moms in developed countries stop breastfeeding their babies much earlier than that. Research shows that babies need to be breastfed for some 4 to 6 months to really get part of all benefits of breastfeeding. So if you can, breastfeed as much as you can at least during your baby’s first half year.
And if you want and can continue to breastfeed, go ahead! Don’t let anyone else (than maybe your baby…) put pressure on you to stop!
Anyway, there will come a time when you’ll want to or have to wean from breastfeeding. For a smooth ride, check our tips below.
How To Wean Your Baby Off The Breast
When should I stop breastfeeding?
There is no “should”. Not for complete weaning anyway. Of course, in some cases mom needs to stop breastfeeding for medical reasons, but that is a special case. Even then, a pediatrician or obstetricians might be able to find a drug that is safe to use while breastfeeding – remember to always ask twice!
Even if you need to go back to work or have to travel a lot with your job, you can continue breastfeeding in the morning and evening or when you’re not traveling. Bring a breast pump while traveling to stimulate milk production.
What is generally recommended for babies is to start with solid foods at some point around 6 months old. This means that your process to stop nursing will start by then if not earlier.
So, the choice is yours – and your baby’s. If you let your baby decide (so called baby-led weaning), it will most likely be a gradual process, probably stretching over several months and can continue for several years if you wish.
How to do it?
One of the best ways to begin weaning from breastfeeding is to gradually replace one nursing session with a single formula feed or solid food, depending on your baby’s age.
If you stop breastfeeding while introducing solid foods, don’t plan to take the breast away completely during one feeding until your baby has started to eat a complete baby portion of food. Otherwise, he’ll leave the table hungry! You can of course replace a breastfeeding session with a combination of solid foods and formula, but don’t introduce both at the same time, that can be a bit too much new stuff for you infant.
When one formula feed of serving of solid foods works well and you observe no reaction from your breasts or your baby, you may proceed to replace another breastfeeding session within a few days.
When you start feeding formula milk or solid foods to your infant, you should watch how they react to it. Generally, when babies can’t adapt to some foods, they show several symptoms like vomiting, spitting, crying, gas, body rashes, redness on the rectum, runny nose, watery stools and wheezing.
If your baby mainly breastfeed at night and that’s the last part of the weaning process left, try to let him sleep with you spouse instead. If your partner has to feed him at night, offer formula or water. If it works to offer him only his pacifier or possibly water, many old enough babies (usually older than 6-8 months), start sleeping through the night real quickly using this method, and fast! I know many moms who have discovered this with great surprise. You can read more about how to stop breastfeeding a baby to sleep here.
While putting an end to breastfeeding, you should also remember to take care of your breasts by wearing a supportive bra. If you wean your baby from your breast quickly, the risk of
getting mastitis is much higher. If your breasts become engorged, express some milk, but don’t empty your breast. If you do, this will be a signal for the breast to produce even more milk, completely opposite to what you want.
How will I feel?
To stop breastfeeding can be a relief or actually kind of a sorrow. A very special episode is about to end.
A mother breastfeeding her baby can be a very sacred bond and if you do feel sad about it, it is completely natural. Take your time if possible. While there are cases when the baby decides one day that enough is enough, most babies certainly won’t mind a slow process.
If you have tips or questions on weaning from breastfeeding, please share by leaving a comment below.
Image: “Samantadh” by Alemarmer – Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0